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February 15, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Celebrate Banned Books Week with Graphic Novels
Launched in 1982 in response to a surge in reported book challenges in schools, bookstores, and libraries, Banned Books Week (held this year on September 21–27) is a time when hundreds of libraries and bookstores across the country set up displays, host events, and stage read-ins to help focus attention on the problem of censorship. According to ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, more than 11,300 books have been challenged since that first Banned Books Week, 307 of them in 2013 alone.
This year, the Banned Books Week planning committee and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund have joined forces to focus the celebration on comics and graphic novels. Banned Comics Week is a fantastic opportunity to spotlight how vulnerable this art form is to challenges. Because comics are still considered by some to be exclusively for children, the powerful and sometimes mature images often found in comics can come as a shock to those new to this storytelling format.
Graphic literature is challenged for all the same reasons prose books are. Objections about a title’s inclusion of mature language, sex, nudity, violence, drug use, and political, racial, and religious content top the list. When a book’s content is illustrated, readers’ reactions are often much more immediate, not to mention volatile, than when they are encountering material as written prose. While anyone is entitled to an opinion on any given title, trouble begins when that person or a small group of people decide that, because they don’t agree with or are offended by a particular book or image, no one should have access to that material.
Most challenges come from well-meaning individuals who genuinely believe that having a book removed from a collection is in everyone’s best interest. But there is truth in the adage that a good library should have something in it to offend everyone. There should be books on the shelves that speak to all segments of a community, including those segments the librarian, library director, or even the mayor may disagree with. As a result, challenges to material can often be difficult and stressful for library staff to manage. In addition to staying calm and respectful, here are some tips on coping with challenges:
Focusing on comics and graphic novels offers libraries a chance to shake up their usual way of celebrating Banned Books Week. A few ideas:
The notion that a book ban only affects the community involved is wrong. Book challenges and bans can have far-reaching consequences. Teachers, librarians, and parents may refrain from buying or teaching similar books for fear of repercussions, regardless of how educational or enjoyable the book may be. This reinforces the idea that books and ideas are off-limits if people disagree with them. Books help people understand and appreciate the world from many different points of view, and reading widely brings more of the world into view. Community engagement is one of the best tools for fighting censorship, and celebrating Banned Books Week brings this fight out into the open.
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